COLLIER COUNTY, Fla - Collier County could become a world class sports destination if leaders get their way. Tuesday, Collier County Commissioners took the first step toward building a $20 million soccer complex. They gave the ok to staff to start looking for land to build the new complex.
This is becoming a big thing across the state. Orlando and Miami both want to lure professional soccer teams to those areas and local players are hoping Southwest Florida is next.
In Collier County, leaders say the sport is so popular, fields like those at North Collier Regional Park and the Vineyards can't keep up with the demand.
The idea for a major sports complex started a year ago when the Southwest Florida Adrenaline came to Naples. The amateur soccer team is the first sports franchise in Collier County history.
"Our game plan is to see how far we can go to get a professional team in the area and there seems to be a lot of interest in that," says Jeff Butzke, President of the Southwest Florida Soccer Federation (SWFSF).
That game plan got a kick start Tuesday when County Commissioners agreed to a partnership with SWFSF.
"in the end, we're going to have incredible sports facilities in Collier County, which will be state of the art and hopefully we'll draw the top athletes from around the world and view Collier County as a sports destination," says Collier County commissioner Georgia Hiller.
The details are still in the works, but renderings show a sports complex on 60 acres of land with several outdoor soccer fields, an indoor facility and a stadium that seats 7,000 people. "It's about economic development, but it's also about seeing if we can provide more capacity and access for our local residents," says Steve Carnell, Collier County Public Service Administrator.
The goal is to ultimately expand beyond soccer to include other sports like volleyball and lacrosse. The complex will cater to young local athletes and hopefully, some day, a professional team.
"If we build an outdoor stadium, we absolutely will get a professional soccer team here in the Naples area," says Butzke.
The hope is to break ground on the stadium in 2015, but that will all depend on how quickly SWFSF can raise the $20 million. The money will all be raised privately and no taxpayer money will be used. It will be a very similar public-private partnership as the County took with the Children's Museum of Naples.